John's Journal...

Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips

Day 2: Shallow Water Warms-Up First for February Crappie

Editor’s Note: You can fill your freezer with crappie during February in many areas of the country, if you watch the weather and look for warm-water intrusions in the major waterways.

Click for Larger ViewSeveral years ago I belonged to a hunting club that had two or three oxbow lakes that had been dammed-up from the Tombigbee River. These lakes were shallower than the river, so they usually warmed-up first. Most often we could catch the crappie out of the lakes before they began to move into the shallow backwater ponds on the main river channel. One time while fishing in February, we failed to produce crappie in the oxbow lakes on the hunting club. We were fishing close to the dam and decided to try to fish below the dam where a small spillway ran into the river. As soon as our jigs and corks hit the water in the spillway, the crappie began to bite. The little creek that ran from the spillway to the main river was only about 6- to 8-foot wide – more like a narrow trench that the water in the lake could escape through when the water level in the lake became too high all along the spillway area.

Click for Larger ViewWe caught crappie for 2 to 3 weeks before the crappie fishing in the lake began to pick up. At first we didn’t understand why the warmer water in the lake wasn’t producing as many crappie as the water coming out of the lake going into the river. We soon realized that the water in the lake was about 3 degrees warmer than the water in the river, therefore when the river crappie found this warmer water, they moved up to the small spillway region and congregated there. We continued to catch crappie all the way from the base of the spillway to where this small ditch ran into the main river. We also noticed that anytime a cold front moved in, fishing this spillway always produced more crappie than fishing the lake. When the water in the river and more importantly the waters in the oxbow lakes running into the river warmed-up, fishing along the spillway wasn’t nearly as productive.

Click for Larger ViewAnother tactic that we learned while fishing for crappie in February was that after we fished the spillway area for several days with jigs and corks, we caught fewer crappie. So, we changed up our baits. We either fished with live minnows with a very-small split shot up the line or with no weight at all. Then once again the crappie started biting. We also saw that when we fished the spillway, we often would catch several bass. Every time we fished there, the bass would break our 6-pound-test line, because we couldn’t set the hooks as well on that light line. Too, our drags were set to catch crappie and not bass.

Click for Larger ViewIf you’re going to be fishing a river system this month, study a river map, and look for creeks and streams that feed out of ponds and lakes well away from the river system that may be dammed-up. If you find sloughs, dead-end canals and oxbows off the main river system that you can get to from the river, go to the back ends of these sloughs where the water has had a chance to warm-up first. Search for wood or rock structure around which to fish. The reason the crappie will be around wood or rock structures in the backs of oxbows and dead-end canals is because the wood and rocks absorb heat. So, the water right next to these structures will be the warmest water in those places. Oftentimes, you may catch crappie in 1- to 1-1/2-foot of water at this time of the year.

A new product coming to the market is the Mister Twister EZ-ScaleR. If you prefer to scale your crappie rather than fillet them, check-out this video:

Tomorrow: February’s Crappie Glory Holes – De-Watering Areas


Check back each day this week for more about "Catch Crappie Now in February, But Watch the Weather with John E. Phillips "

Day 1: Little Waters Mean Big February Crappie
Day 2: Shallow Water Warms-Up First for February Crappie
Day 3: February’s Crappie Glory Holes – De-Watering Areas
Day 4: Follow the Sewage to Find Big Crappie in Early Spring
Day 5: Look For Warm-Water Runoffs in Springs for Early-Season Crappie


Entry 600, Day 2